Six women standing in a row and smiling in front of a large bookshelf

Avoid the “effortless perfection” trap, Duke Alumna advises College of Women

It’s a feeling that I first noticed when she was a college student – the intense pressure to get everything done but own it It seems as if he didn’t take any effort. It’s a feeling that Karalina Peterson 15 wants to ignore other college students.

During her time at Duke University, Peterson learned of a term that captured her sense: “effortless perfection,” a phrase used by Duke University students that attracted national attention after it was cited in Duke Women’s Initiative Report 2003.

The report, commissioned by former Grand Duke Nannerl O. Cohan, aims to understand and improve the women’s campus culture. The results indicated a social environment with unreasonable expectations for women: “that women be intelligent, accomplished, fit, beautiful, and popular, and that all of this would happen without apparent effort.”

“Effortless perfection is definitely not just a duke thing; it strikes college students in any high intensity/high expectation environment,” Peterson writes in her book, The myth of effortless perfectionPosted in September 20 Ingram Spark.

Peterson argues that the resulting effect on young women is not just superficial. Through her research and interviews with writers, she shows what the idea of Smooth perfection lowers self-esteem, leads to eating disorders and mental illness, and distorts relationships with others.

“I really wantso To write the book I wish I had in college,” Peterson says. “I think there are a lot of people out there who look like me, if someone had just told me an X or a Y before I took my first step on campus, I would have been more prepared.”

Karalina (center, hat and gown) poses with her family on graduation day in front of the Duke Chapel.

In her book – with advice drawn from her experience but applicable to contemporary times with examples from social media and Today’s forecast – Peterson outlines tactics to help other women break away from the myth. Here are some of her tips:

Define counter narratives

“The first step in responding to the dominant narrative of seamless perfection on college campuses is to identify counter-narratives,” Peterson wrote.

Counter-narratives show honesty over pretense. In her book, Peterson discusses #Halfthestory Instagram campaignStarted by Vanderbilt student Larissa May, individuals share experiences beyond what is considered a regulated norm on social media.

Peterson says factual stories can help others realize that they are not alone in their struggle and easily identify unreasonable standards (see Peterson’s chapter, “Is There Any Right Way for a Woman to Be Assertive?”).

“It’s an idea, I’m the wreck “It makes you feel really awful,” Peterson says. “And it’s the isolation and alienation when you’re struggling that makes it so much worse than it should be.”

Learn positive ways to motivate you

Failure stings but avoiding it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Peterson advises that you are drawn to your feelings and not cause fear or anxiety.

“I think what’s really important for college students and people with these kinds of stresses is to ask themselves, ‘Where do my motivation come from?'” Peterson says. “

View of the white table from above.  A cup of coffee is at the bottom left.  Pink laptop with a woman's empowerment symbol sticker in the middle, two hands holding a parchment and a pen for updates, lower right.

During her book interviews, she asked Peterson about her peers first It felt as if they really failed. I found that for many of them, it wasn’t until college.

“When they had this experience, she was completely exhausted,” Peterson says. “He. She I felt that moment where they It was LosR Their identity as a successful Type A student, and an effortlessly exemplary student.”

Never base your sense of identity on failure, Peterson says. “I get it, because I did itBut it is not healthy in the long run. She recommends more gradual exposure to failure, starting with small risks.

Find a place to believe

For Peterson, finding other students who could be the same around her made all the difference, Like the Duke of originality project And the I’m a soliloquy too and other groups that encourage honest discussions.

Students can also benefit from access to mental health professionals.

“There are resources available to you on the Duke campus,” Peterson says. “When I had my first anxiety attack, I myself walked up to it caps. “

Peterson says it’s important to take the time to acknowledge how you feel.

Diary and meditate and ask someone to check in, Peterson says. “Because it’s really easy to escape these feelings and emotions.”

Learn more aboutThe myth of effortless perfection. “

Fall 2022 Health and Resilience Series by Duke Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Duke Gender Violence Intervention Services

For confidential treatment services and clinical case management needed due to violence, students may attend/call *CAPS MT 9-6 and WF 9-4. Students may also contact the coordinator directly, GVICoordinator@duke.edu or 984-569-0592.

Students seeking after-hours services have three options for support:

  1. CONFIDENTIAL SUPPORT: Leave a voice mail to the GVI Coordinator (984-569-0592) or email GVICoordinator@duke.edu. Students will be contacted within 24 hours or less if necessary.
  2. Non-confidential support and reporting through Dean On-Call 984-287-0300 or DUPD 919-684-2444. (A request for support from a non-confidential resource will result in communication from Duke University.)

  3. Students can also access local resources through Durham Crisis Response Center. Students can also use the helpline at 919-403-6562.


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